Your Network Isn’t Working For You. Here’s What to Do About It.


Recently, I’ve been writing (and revising) my work life manifesto — which attempts to distill my thoughts and guiding principles concerning how I approach work life. (More on this later.) One key principle, which survives every cut — addresses the notion that the people that surround and support us. Whether these individuals share our physical work environment or are connected virtually, doesn’t matter. It is the contribution to work life progress that is the criterion.

The Ugly Side of Networks
We’ve all heard the advice that we require a broad network. That we should build one — and faithfully utilize one. However, what if you realize that you indeed have a network, but it is not helping you move forward? (At least not in the manner that would be meaningful to your work or work life, in this very moment.) What if that network is not supplying what you need to stay strong, to stay focused and motivated?

The difference likely lies in the notion of a network vs. a community.

You see a network isn’t a community. It’s a Rolodex.

You may need to re-visit that network, tear it down and rebuild a community in which you might thrive.

There are elements that might alert you to a need for some quick changes. More specifically — that you need to bring elements of community to your network.
Here are a just few:

  • You aren’t discussing ideas — at least not in a way that matters. Remember that your community should provide resources to help you actually digest your ideas and sort out how they can develop. If that this is missing, make no mistake, you are losing.
  • Interactions are less than reciprocal. Social media makes connecting very, very easy — but there is a downside. Connections do not equal forward progress. If you’ve discovered that most of your network is happy to use your time and support, but haven’t really returned in kind, it’s time for an audit. (Beware of Remora fish.)
  • You no longer believe in them. If you have “lost that loving feeling” and no longer want to share someone’s message (you detect insincerity or purely self-serving goals), consider a replacement. If you are longer invested in their “brand”, lose them. You’ll likely not trust their opinions.
  • They no longer believe in you. This is the real deal-breaker. It is imperative that you surround yourself with those that feel you have something to offer. (Please don’t confuse this with honest critiques). If you sense this is a core issue, shuffle them out of your line-up.

Anything else to add? How have you built a strong community to support your work life?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.



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